Toyota, Northern Trust Bank Dish Up Sodexo's Meatless Monday Program

Toyota, Northern Trust Bank Dish Up Sodexo's Meatless Monday Program

Sodexo has rolled out its Meatless Monday initiative to thousands of new facilities in a bid to promote wellness and sustainability.

Toyota, Northern Trust Bank and the U.S. Department of Interior are among the organizations that have jumped on the Meatless Monday bandwagon, Sodexo said this week. The company now offers the Meatless Monday program to more than 2,000 of its clients following a successful pilot program at more than 900 hospitals across the U.S.

"The response has been very positive," said Tracey Riddle, Sodexo's general manager at Toyota's North American headquarters in Torrance, Calif. "The first week we ran it, we had people taking pictures of the sign."

That Meatless Monday sign highlights the day's vegetarian options from each of the various serving stations, Riddle explained. Meat dishes are still offered, but it is the vegetarian items that receive heavy promotion.

"We had a Napa Valley salad that had fresh, local produce highlighting local farmers," Riddle said. "People just loved it. The way we did it, we were able to make it a farmers' market kind of theme. Our sales skyrocketed."

Riddle said traffic at the various serving stations doesn't fall off on Mondays because of the emphasis on the meat-free items.

"People aren't shying away from it," she said of Meatless Monday participation. "If anything, it's increased it."

To boot, the initiative has a small silver economic lining.

"It's a lower product cost so it does help the bottom line a little bit," Riddle said. 

The initiative is the brainchild of The Monday Campaign, a nonprofit, the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. The organizations developed the initiative as a way to encourage Americans to trim their intake of saturated fat by 15 percent based on industry recommendations.

The initiative has been picked up by a range of companies and tweaked to reflect individual corporate cultures, according to Peggy Neu, president of The Monday Campaign. Mario Batali, Kaiser, Moe's Southwest Grill are among the companies supporting Meatless Monday.

"One of the reasons this is so appealing," Neu said, "is that it rests at the intersection of health and wellness and sustainability initiatives."

Sodexo plans to extend the Meatless Mondays campaign to its college and university clients later this year, in addition to a pilot test in senior living facilities.

According to archives, the cities of Ghent, Belgium, San Francisco and Takoma Park, Maryland have also embraced the Meatless Monday theme. In 2009, the Baltimore Public School District became the first in the nation to offer a meatless menu on Mondays.

At the time, Tony Geraci, director of Baltimore City Schools Department of Food and Nutrition, said he hoped the initiative would help people understand there are more options that just "meat and potatoes."